By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
There was a time in her life when Carla Gordon never envisioned herself strolling through the aisles of a gun show.
"I was 180 degrees opposite of where I am now," the Quincy woman said. "I was anti-gun, but then I grew up listening to Chicago headlines and reading Chicago newspapers. I dated a guy here, and he was the first person to put a firearm in my hands the right way. He guided me until I met a circle of people. From there I went to handguns and then I went to trap guns. I learned to hunt."
Gordon used to do competitive pistol shooting and is now a competitive trap shooter, competing in American Trapshooting Association events in West Quincy, Mo. She was one of hundreds of people who streamed into the Oakley-Lindsay Center on Saturday for the first hunting and trade show put on by Centralia, Ill.-based ECA Inc.
Gordon was looking for anything that captured her eye.
For others, the show was a chance to take a look at ways to protect themselves by purchasing their first gun.
"We've had a lot of people come by and have had a lot of lookers as you always do at gun shows," said vendor Dwight Bernard, who owns Belle Rive-based Dwight's Guns. "We've sold several, so it's not a bad thing."
In the weeks since the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., gun control has been a hot topic of debate through America. Those in attendance Saturday didn't think that guns were the problem in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which saw 26 people at the school die.
"We have enough laws," Gordon said. "We have to help the mental health situation. The mental health situation is getting out of control. We don't know how to fix that. We don't know how to reach out and help the people when they ask for it. We have to figure out something. That would be a start."
Bob Leckrone, one of the show's organizers from the Egyptian Collectors Association, was in favor of a suggestion made by Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.
"He said we need to put an armed guard in every school," Leckrone said. "I think that's a wonderful idea because there are a lot of crazies out there. It's a mental health issue. (The Newtown shooter) just happened to use a gun. If he hadn't of had a gun, he probably would have used some explosives."
Gordon, a retired teacher, said LaPierre's suggestion has its problems as well.
"That person can be overcome, so what is your second line of defense?," she said. "This young man (in Newtown) shot through a door, a security system. Who is to stop him then?"
The Missouri Legislature will consider a bill next year that would allow teachers and school administrators to carry concealed firearms on school property.
"It reaches a new dimension of education," Gordon said of the bill. "Do we want the onus of protection of our children on the shoulders of a teacher? That's a huge question. Is that teacher willing to have that responsibility on his or her shoulders?"
There was no shortage of camouflaged-dressed people in attendance Saturday, each paying $5 to gain entry to the Oakley-Lindsay Center's main hall. The hall was filled with vendors who carried everything from handguns to assault rifles to collector's rifles. There was plenty of ammunition for sale.
Bernard said some gun owners are trying to secure some rifles they believe could soon be outlawed.
"People want to buy things that may be banned," he said. "With President Obama being re-elected, they think there are some guns that are going to be banned."
Gordon said she wouldn't buy an assault rifle.
"I have had an option to buy one and I choose not to because everything I own, I want to be able to shoot on a regular basis," she said. "When a ‘new shooter' buys himself an assault rifle and then they realize what the ammunition costs to run one of those puppies, the reality sets in that ‘Oh, this is kind of expensive.' And then that goes in the safe and they tend not to use it.
"If you buy an assault rifle, are you going to keep that by your bed or are you going to keep the revolver or .45 by your bed? It raises new questions."
Leckrone said the group's shows tend to cater to the outdoorsman. He said the ECA puts on just over 20 shows a year, going as far north as Peoria and Bloomington. He said some vendors drove as far as five hours to be part of this weekend's event. Considering Saturday's turnout, Leckrone said he plans to make Quincy part of the group's annual rotation of shows.
The gun show concludes today. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.